The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
(from the back of the book)
Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy. Here, hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets…
After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny.
When their aunt threatens to separate them Bo and Prosper run away. You know that they should not be on their own but the love between the brothers and their desire to stay together makes you want to root for them even when their flight takes them to the streets of Venice where they join the Thief Lord and his small band. The Thief Lord’s gang is a likeable bunch and they stick together like family. You worry that someone will find out about them and take them away from each other. The Thief Lord takes care of them even though he is just a kid himself. He’s arrogant but you like him anyway because you know he is just a kid looking for approval and acceptance. The detective sent to find Bo and Prosper is a nice, funny guy who has a touching affection for his pet turtles and you want him to succeed too even though his objectives are the opposite of the children’s. You want all of them to find a happy ending and it kind of leave you torn because you don’t know if that is possible. There are some Italian words and a glossary to explain them but most of the time you don’t need it because the context is enough to figure out what they mean. I liked the story of the children trying to make their way and the detective trying to decide what is the right thing to do. I liked trying to figure out how it could possibly turn out well for everyone. There were good themes of being careful what you wish for and that the grass is not always greener and learning to understand the problems of others. The children and the detective were people you wanted to know and spend time with. But I thought the first part of the book was better than the end when the magic merry-go-round came into the story. It seemed strange to me. Not because it was fantastical but because it did not quite seem to fit into the first part of the book. It took us someplace I did not expect to go. But I do like the slightly ambiguous ending. Not that you don’t know what happened, but you don’t know if you are quite happy about it.